First Aid Techniques Every Senior Should Know

First Aid Techniques Every Senior Should Know

Did you know that most injuries occur at home? And some of those accidents can be quite severe. For instance, falls are the leading cause of non-fatal and fatal injuries among seniors. Over 3 million seniors are treated in emergency departments for falls each year, and over 800,000 of them are hospitalized as a result of their injuries.1

But medical emergencies and accidents go well beyond falls.  Elderly adults are much more prone to burn injuries as well as long-term complications from them.2 Since so many seniors take medications – more than four in ten seniors take at least five medications – there can be interactions that easily lead to medical emergencies.3 Cuts and lacerations can be dangerous for anyone, but especially for seniors who are on certain medications, including blood thinners.

This might all sound alarming, but being prepared for anything can help you feel more secure. That’s why you need a well-stocked first aid kit and knowledge how to use it. You will also need to know when a situation is serious enough to call for help (the medical alert systems from Alert1 are perfect for summoning help fast in any emergency).

Common Mishaps at Home

Accidents are bound to happen at some point. If you have the first aid supplies and knowledge you need to stay safe and healthy, those moments become a practical matter of fixing the issue – they don’t snowball into something more serious.

These are some of the most common issues you will want to be ready for:

·        Cuts and scrapes. A break in the skin can happen in an instant. You might stumble and scrape your knees, poke your hand with a knife that was hiding under the suds in the sink, or even have an encounter with an overzealous housecat. Rinse the wound with clean water, using a mild soap. Apply pressure to stop the bleeding, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover with a bandage of appropriate size.  

·        Falls. One in four seniors falls every year, and one in five suffers a serious injury as a result, according to the CDC.4 Those who don’t suffer serious injury are still likely to have at least bumps and bruises. Ice packs and pain relievers are a great idea to help, and medical alert technology can make it easy to call for help after more serious falls.

·        Nosebleeds. Pinch the nostrils together to apply pressure and lean forward. Hold the nostrils for 10-15 minutes. This should be enough to stop the bleeding. Take care not to blow your nose for at least an hour after the bleeding stops.

·        Dehydration. It’s surprisingly easy to become dehydrated. The elderly often don’t feel thirsty even when they need more water. Their electrolyte balance becomes harder to maintain. Certain medications, such as diuretics, can easily lead to dehydration. Drinks rich in electrolytes should be an important part of your first aid arsenal. Drink to get rehydrated and if you can’t keep the liquids down, call your doctor.

·        Minor eye injuries. It’s amazing how easy it is to get something in your eye. If that happens, flush with eye wash or cool water for at least 15 minutes. Don’t rub your eye! If the irritation is still there after flushing your eye, it’s time to call the doctor.

·        Burns. From getting burned on a hot stove in the kitchen to staying out in the sun too long and developing sunburn, it can be easy to damage your skin. Gels and creams that alleviate the pain are a must. Run cool water gently over the burn for at least 10 minutes, then cover with sterile gauze and a bandage.

·        Sprains. Imagine “rolling” your ankle as you walk across the backyard or picking up something too heavy and feeling a sudden pain in your wrist. These sprains and strains can be treated with rest and an ice pack. Elevate the injured area if you can. The sprain will need to be stabilized with a large stretchy bandage or splint while you make your way to the doctor.

·        Bites and stings. Stings and bites can bring plenty of pain, so be sure to have topical pain relievers, tweezers (to remove stingers), and anti-itch cream on hand. You may need to take an antihistamine if you are developing an allergic reaction. And always be aware of bites or stings that lead to difficulty breathing, as that could be anaphylactic shock.

Consider taking a course in CPR and first aid. Not only will this allow you to help others, it will also help you treat your own injuries.

What to Stock in Your First Aid Kit

To treat these mishaps at home, you’ll need a well-stocked first aid kit. While it’s a good idea to have a smaller kit for your vehicle or travel, you should also have one at home that is much larger, filled with all the things you need to ensure that minor injuries can be treated at once.

You can purchase a pre-made first aid kit that has the basics of what you need, but keep in mind that these kits often contain lots of bandages for small cuts and little else. So even if you buy a large kit at the store, you’ll likely need to add a few things to round out the necessary items.

·        Bandages. This is the most common item in any first aid kit. The bandages come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and often serve different purposes depending on the injury.

·        Gauze. Some wounds might be a bit too big for a typical bandage to cover. Gauze is ultra-absorbent and doesn’t stick to the wound or skin like other coverings can.

·        Skin tape. Also known as medical tape, this tape is designed to hold gauze down on the skin. Elderly skin is quite delicate, so look for a tape that is very gentle and easy to remove.

·        Antiseptic wipes. These individually-packaged wipes can clear bacteria from the skin to help avoid infection following an injury. They can also be used to clean tweezers or scissors.

·        Pain relievers. This should generally include ibuprofen and acetaminophen, depending on your personal health issues. Also include a topical pain reliever, such as a cream with lidocaine or a “sting stick” for bee stings and other irritations.

·        Activated charcoal. This prevents the stomach from absorbing substances – it can be helpful if someone has taken too much of a medication. (If you must use activated charcoal, you should follow up with your doctor right away.)

·        Antibiotic creams. After cleaning a cut or scrape very well, this cream can create a barrier against bacteria and keep the skin soft, which can make it hurt a little less and heal faster.

·        Burn gel. This cream can be used on burns to alleviate pain and aid in healing.

·        Instant ice packs. Bumps and bruises can benefit from the application of an ice pack. The instant types have a small capsule inside that you can break with a hard squeeze. The pack immediately becomes cold but stays supple, so you can comfortably apply it anywhere.

·        Gloves. Gloves help keep the wound area as clean as possible.

·        Hydrocortisone cream. This works well for alleviating the itching and irritation of bites and stings.

·        Ace bandages. These wide, stretchy bandages are great for stabilizing a wrist or ankle or wrapping up a larger wound to buy you time to get to the doctor.

·        Thermometer. A fever can be a sign of a more serious issue.

·        Tweezers and scissors. These handy tools can help with shaping gauze or removing splinters.

·        Sterile eyewash. If you get something in your eye, this wash might work even better than flushing your eye with water.

Feel free to add more items, such as tourniquets, splints, or triangular bandages. Since the elderly are at a higher risk of falls, expect that you might have to treat more bumps, bruises, and sprains. You can make good use of these while you wait for help to arrive (and that help can get there much sooner if you opt for a medical alert pendant or wristband).

You should also consider first aid items that are specifically for those with certain medical conditions. For instance, if you have diabetes, you should stock glucose tabs or gels in your first aid kit. This can help if you suffer from low blood sugar. If you have arthritis, creams containing capsaicin are an excellent idea. If you have allergies, allergy medication is a must – and if you have severe allergies, you should always have an Epi-Pen in your kit. Do you have asthma? Include a rescue inhaler and appropriate medications.

Finally, a very important part of any first aid kit is a list of emergency contacts. This is often overlooked when creating a first aid kit and can leave you scrambling when a serious situation strikes. Make a list, keep it up-to-date, and place copies not only in the first aid kit, but in other places as well. Sticking a list on the refrigerator is a good idea because anyone can easily access it in the event of emergency. If you opt for an affordable medical alert system, you’re top 3 contacts will automatically be alerted if you suffer any health or safety incident.

How to Know When It’s Serious

Sometimes even the most well-equipped first aid kit just isn’t enough. Often you know immediately that a situation is too serious and requires professional help but sometimes, you might be on the fence. Just how serious is it? These issues are medical emergencies:

·        Severe bleeding. Bleeding from a laceration or scrape should stop within a matter of minutes, especially if you apply pressure. This holds true for nosebleeds as well. If it doesn’t, seek help.

·        Chest pain. Never take a “wait and see” approach to chest pain.

·        Sudden numbness or weakness. This is often a sign of stroke.

·        Hitting your head. You already know that an extreme blow to the head can be devastating, but even smaller bumps can lead to a brain bleed, especially in seniors.

·        Trouble breathing. Sudden shortness of breath can indicate anything from heart attack to impending anaphylactic shock.

·        Fast, shallow breathing. This is a sign of physiological shock or severe infection.

·        Confusion or disorientation. This can be a sign of a stroke or brain injury.

·        Severe abdominal pain. Pain is our body’s way of sounding an alarm. If the pain is accompanied by vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea, seek medical attention.

·        Pain after a fall. If you are in severe pain after suffering a fall, you might have a fracture.

·        Extensive burns. If a burn is larger than your palm, caused by chemicals or electricity, causing severe pain, or leading to signs of shock, get help right away.5

·        High fever. Any fever over 103 degrees Fahrenheit is a serious cause for concern.

·        Red streaks leading from a wound. These streaks on the skin could indicate an infection in your bloodstream. This can happen with any sort of wound, including bites or stings.

Medical Alert Technology Protects You

If you are faced with any of the more serious problems listed here, it’s time to call for help. Dialing 911 to get emergency services to your door is the appropriate response. But what if you can’t get to the phone to make that call? What if you are home alone when a medical emergency occurs? What if you are in a remote area? Reaching out for help right away could mean the difference between a good outcome and a bad outcome, or even life and death.

That’s why it’s a good idea to turn to personal emergency response systems, also known as medical alarms, to help you stay safe. Rather than worrying about getting to the phone, you would simply press a button on the senior life-saving alert system and within seconds, a professional agent from a monitoring center is on the line, ready to assess the situation and help you in the most appropriate way. That might mean calling a neighbor, family member, or someone else you designated as an emergency contact. In a very serious situation, it means calling for emergency services and staying on the line with you until help arrives.

When you are out and about, choosing a mobile medical alert with GPS provides you with the peace of mind that no matter where an emergency occurs, you can get the help you need.

Whether at home or on the go, Alert1 Medical Alert Systems can help seniors stay as safe and secure as possible. When an emergency strikes, you’ll have the peace of mind that a simple button push is all that’s required to get whatever help you need.